When he passed by her house on the way to the record shop he saw her and did a double-take. She was sitting near the front window. She looked pretty, but he could only see the barest glimpse of her back. Tresses of soft brown hair reached down alluringly past her shoulders, gathering upon the windowsill. He worked up some nerve to speak to her, but he never had too much trouble at this sort of thing. His friends always called him crazy because he'd spark up a conversation with anyone. But he got laid more than they did, so what of it?
He tapped on the window and said hello. He asked if he could come in. She didn't say anything back, but she seemed comfortable with it, so he approached the door, turned the knob. He scooted it open just a bit, made sure to ask again if it was all right. Same response.
He came in, shutting the door behind him. He stood for a moment looking around, appraising. "Nice place you got here, babe," he proffered mildly.
She said nothing.
He sat down. Her things were well-placed, and of earthen hues. The whole place was done up in browns - but not like shit, he decided. Not like shit at all. Most things were shit lately, what with their sterile angles and sexless colors, their plastics and steel. But this place was calming, natural. He liked her already.
He looked at her, and she at him. She was dead. But these things happened, he knew. He didn't judge her. It wasn't so bad. Far worse things could have been; she could've been a bitch, or a nail-biter, or one of those girls who likes to pee on people. No, he was much too straight for that sort of thing. People were such freaks now, he knew. Intuition told him it was the influence of the Internet, but he wasn't the sort to spend much time philosophizing.
A dainty dress strap had slid lazily from a narrow shoulder. Her hair fell in a splendid cascade. She was beautiful.
He offered to make her some tea, and even cleaned up some dishes she'd left in the sink, as he knew she'd appreciate it. They conversed and confabulated well into the afternoon. She didn't talk too much, being dead, but she seemed at ease, so he felt at ease too. She was easy to talk to. Easier than most people he knew. They had a great time together.
As evening's dark cat crept over the sharp edifices of the apartment buildings he bid her sweet goodbye, and politely thanked her for her time. He said it had been nice meeting her and he'd like to see her again soon.
She said nothing, but her body language seemed to agree.
The next time he came to see her he brought flowers, lilacs - nothing too serious, not the burdensome blood labor of the rose, or the frivolity of lackadaisical daisies. Somewhere in-between. White lilacs, curiously enough the very same sort of blossom used to endorse funeral processions - though he himself didn't make the connection. She loved them. He could tell.
She sat in her chair, the sun streaming in the bright glass and snuggling warmly upon her lap. He had worn one of his best shirts, button-up, with the top unbuttoned because he didn't want to appear stuffy. She seemed fond of his appearance as she wouldn't stop staring at him. It made him feel warm like a sunbeam hitting his middle.
"Do you like rainy days or sunny days?" he asked her, trying to be solicitous. Then he felt foolish and had to amend his words. "I mean," he stumbled, turning red, "everyone likes sunny days. I think I mean: do you like rainy days more? Some people do. I do, as long as I'm inside." He sat quietly for a moment fiddling with the last buttonhole on his shirt. "I think I'd like to spend a rainy day or two with you." She looked at him and he had the sense that in her silence the feeling was reciprocated.
She said nothing.
He tried to ask her about herself, about her youth: if she had been a lively little girl, climbing and crawling around with the boys, or if she'd been the frilly sort, having tea-parties with stuffed elephants and plush teddybears; where she had grown up, the yawning countryside or the steaming city (like he had); if she had any brothers or sisters (he had none); what her parents were like (his were dead, much like her, only more buried); what she had dreamed about growing up to be; if she collected dolls or action figures or sea shells or whatever; what her favorite movies were; if she had ever been in love and so on. She didn't talk much and he got the sense that she was somewhere else.
Maybe she was feeling depressed, he wondered, which seemed likely, what with being dead and all. What if I'm boring her? he worried next. Suddenly the sunbeam in his heart wavered a bit as though a cloud had passed over the sun. He shrugged and decided he'd not pry, instead relaxing into the comfortable silence between them. If two people could be happy together saying nothing, then they had a good thing going, he knew.
He read a book for a bit - something or other by Bukowski - but it depressed him. So then he found another on her well-stocked shelves, a Woody Allen. He sat down lightly and broke the silence, telling her his favorite Woody Allen joke: "I don't mind dying so much; I'd just rather not be around for it." He giggled and dust motes circled around her in the sunbeam like faeries. He wondered if she liked jokes.
She said nothing.
The next evening he came over and cooked dinner. He surprised her with a bottle of wine and a Billie Holiday record for the player that rested near her bookcase. She didn't say anything but looked pleased. He was starting to enjoy her silence, her peace - a certain grace that befit her well and spoke volumes about how she saw the world. He often felt the same way; most other people he knew moved around nervously and talked too much about nothing. People were afraid of silence lately, as if it were hard to ignore something if it was too quiet. His intuition told him it was all the TV's and the ipods - but he didn't really think too much on it.
He made spaghetti with sweet peppers sautéed with garlic, mushrooms, and a spot of pineapple juice (his secret ingredient). He poured some wine, lit some candles, put on the Billie, and opened the windows to let the warm night air in. When he was opening the window beside her he realized he hadn't yet been so close to her and felt a fluttering in his groin. Embarrassed, he sat down quickly and invited her to eat.
She didn't really touch her food or even the wine, but that was okay if she wasn't hungry, he decided. It must be stressful being dead. Not having an appetite was understandable and his feelings weren't hurt. She did however seem to enjoy the music and the breeze. On the table candle flames weaved and bobbed and threw playful shadows across the room.
Romantically, they stared at one another from across the table, and what with the candle-lit intimacy and the wine and the whisperings of sultry perhapses drifting in on the breeze he was moved to kiss her. He rose brusquely and came to her with Victorian need, and kneeling like Don Juan's disciple gently brought his lips to hers - hesitantly at first, and when she did not back away, eagerly and passionately. He ignored a curious mildly-offensive odor. After all, a little bad breath never killed anybody. He wasn't a nit-pick.
Sensing that she seemed a little stiff he gently disengaged himself - casually, so as to not hurt her feelings. It must feel too soon for her, he mused. I've made her uncomfortable, he realized, and a cold shock sunk into the spot in his chest where the sunbeam used to be.
Embarrassed, he cleared the table quickly, stored her leftovers in the fridge in case she got hungry later, and excused himself for the evening, rushing out into the night, face flushed with a mixture of passion, shame, and wine.
He thought a lot about her over the following few days, wondered if he should try to see her again; if he had crudely effaced himself beyond all hope of soft reparations; if he had offended the poor sweet dead girl, with her quiet acceptance and her confident grace; or, on the other hand, if she now longed for him, and sat there near the window waiting for his pleasant knock; if she yearned for another kiss now that the ice had been broken and so on.
He knew however that things couldn't go on much further like this. He was growing impatient about being kept in limbo. "Why won't she return my affections?" he wondered, pained, in the dank isolation of his fetid basement apartment. "I've been nothing but nice and wonderful and charming toward her. I've shown her nothing but my readiness to be the kind of lover someone like her deserves!
"Just because she is dead" he fumed, irritated, "doesn't mean she has to act like it!"
He resolved to tell her his mind, politely, yet assertively, on his next visit.
When he came to see her the next day he could tell something had changed. The air was different somehow-putrid and thick. She was still sitting by the window, but she looked now to his eye to be a wholly different girl. She had gained weight - lots - and sat, bloated and lumpy, her beautiful skin, now devoid of its pale effulgence, turned purplish and splotchy. The look on her face had changed too. She appeared mean, her eyes no longer glimmering atop soft high cheekbones but sunken insipidly in a round fat face that seemed to scowl at him - like two raisins crammed inanely into a lumpy mound of dough. And the smell of her! God! She must not have showered since death itself! He was appalled at the vision.
"Honey!" he shouted. "Jeez, what's wrong with you? Are you ill?"
Still she said nothing.
He couldn't bear to see her treating herself so, and simultaneously felt ashamed for feeling so selfish. Still he couldn't allow himself, selfish as it was, to get any closer to her without some sort of commitment on her part. Why should one bother falling in living love with someone who acts as though dead?
He had to at least ask.
"Listen," he began gingerly as the dust motes spiraled in strange drafts about her, "I know things are bad for you. I understand. Sometimes life makes us feel as though it's not worth the effort. But I want to tell you now - yes, I'm certain, even as I say it - that I am in love with you. I want to offer you my love as something to live for, to care about. Let my love uplift you!" he pleaded, trying to remain calm and confident. Nobody likes a sap, he knew.
"Let me care for you, and be there for you. Together, we'll have fun like we were meant to have, like children, but fuller, alive with the lust gained through growing older in the world and hurting. You and I've both been through it, babe, and it's taught us a lot about love. We can do this together!
"Tell me now, or never speak to me again. I hate ultimatums, and I hate to bring one to you now, in your state, but my heart will break if I continue holding my tongue. Don't hold yours, either. Life is not forever, darling! Let us not waste anymore time! Tell me you love me too!"
He waited. Dust faeries danced. Traffic passed on the street outside. The sun bragged life to the roofs of buildings.
She said nothing.
He got down on his knees in front of her slumped body. "Please, love! Please don't do this! Say something. Anything!"
She said nothing. She simply scowled from her petulant fat face, her formerly-lovely, lithe fingers now like plump sausages rested indifferently upon bulging grotesque thighs.
She said nothing, nothing at all.
He knew then. He knew then like he'd known it every other time he had felt this way, his heart's love wounded and writhing in his breast. He knew she wouldn't love him back. Bitch! he thought acidly. But then his utter despair and wrenching ache overpowered it.
Slowly, strangled, he approached her and gently caressed for the first, last, and only time her lovely auburn locks. He would remember the feel of them for years to come, he knew. Standing, gazing down at her from heights of sadness, he told her goodbye. In his grief he did not see - as from only this angle he could have - the empty pill bottle beside her, stuffed into the crease between her thigh and the cushion, did not see the suicide note to no one underneath it.
He closed his eyes and walked to the door, almost turning for nostalgic purpose but not doing so, knowing how it would only further hurt them both.
He knew somewhere in that big crazy heart of his she was one of a kind. No girl living would ever be anything like her. But he knew too that it was over. He shrugged his sorry way onto the street, looked forward (for where else is there ever?), hunched his shoulders, and pulled his coat tighter against a suddenly colder sort of breeze.
M C R
This work is copyrighted by the author, Daniel Bachleda. All rights reserved